Music Review

Gorillaz – Cracker Island

todayMarch 2, 2023 217 2

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By Kristi Houk

Recommended if you like: Tame Impala, The Roots, Daft Punk, De La Soul

“Damon won Brit Pop” ~ Andrea Paschal

This isn’t an opinion piece about who won the infamous Battle of Brit Pop—Blur vs Oasis in
1995. You can make up your own mind there. However, it is worth mentioning that after listening
to the latest Gorillaz record, Cracker Island and refamiliarizing myself about how good Gorillaz
were/are, I have a new found admiration for Damon Albarn who, as a reminder, was the co-founder and frontman of English rock band, Blur and who also co-created the virtual band, Gorillaz with artist, Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl) in 1998.

 

Gorillaz released their self-titled debut record in March, 2001 six months before the terrorist
attacks on September 11th. If you revisit that album, there’s something boiling underneath the
surface. It’s a mood piece, trippy, paranoid, but often filled with euphoric swagger. It’s not a
prophecy of what’s to come per se, but more like a testament to the world it’s living in. A time
capsule which arguably is what all great art is. Go back and listen to “Tomorrow Comes Today”
to see what I mean.

But back to the present…like their first record, the virtual band’s 8th release, Cracker Island, also proves to be a commentary on modern life. (Modern Life is Rubbish…I couldn’t help myself) Think of it as Albarn’s Sign ‘O’ the Times. The album deftly combines electro-pop, hip hop, and alt-funk with a cast of all-star guest voacalists—Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, Bad Bunny and Beck. Is it a concept album? A love/hate letter to Los Angeles? Yes and Yes.

On the title track, “Cracker Island” featuring Thundercat on backing vocals and bass, the lyrics are as heavy as the bass line—

On Cracker Island it was born
To the collective of the dawn
They were planting seeds at night
To grow a made-up paradise
Where the truth was auto-tuned (forever cult)
But it’s sadness I consumed (forever cult)

What’s going on here? Cults and misinformation and references to L.A.:

In the end, I had to pay (what world is this?)
Out there on my silver lake (I was not there)
In the end it will be great (beneath the hills)
I’m like a ship between the tide (I saw myself)
I held on, I survived (there in the void)

A danceable, if not, spooky cautionary tale. What is real anymore?

On “New Gold” featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown (The Pharcyde) we get more teenage
wasteland drama:

Yo, a desolate city where it hurts to smile
Ran into the Reverend since it’s been a while
I’m reining in the rando’, she’s a social scandal
Gave ourselves a handle when it’s too much to bare
ABC boys raided the mayor
Like Shaun, he’s a Ryder, took on a dare
Now he’s singing like a birdy, pulling on his hair
Trending on Twitter’s what some of us live for
Friendships givin’ out, fucking revolving door
All of this a joke? Pauly Shore
Bullshit keeps comin’, maybe I’m a Matador
What are we living for?

Take heed though: Hope is not lost. The last track “Possession Island” features Beck on backing
vocals and is a somber, beautiful, piano heavy sing-along reminiscent of the Walker Brothers—

And we’re all in this together ’till the end
Where the pearly gates remain open
And welcome me home
By the time I came to California I died
By the hands of the ghostly queen
Where things they don’t exist
And we’re all in this together ’till the end
‘Til the end evermore.

It’s a perfect ending.

Cracker Island is a two-sided mirror. There’s a lot to unpack if you choose to or you could just
say, fuck it and dance

Stand out Tracks: “Cracker Island,” “Silent Running,” “New Gold” 

Written by: kristi houk

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